Baltimore Ravens: 5 Players Likely to Break out in 2012
After an offseason in which numerous veterans signed with other teams, the Ravens are going to be younger and more inexperienced in 2012. That will give multiple players the opportunity to get more playing time, and possibly break out into a star.
With voids at left guard, outside linebacker and defensive end after the departures of Ben Grubbs, Jarrett Johnson and Cory Redding, the Ravens will be relying on young talent to fill that role.
At other positions, the Ravens could look for a spark after a season in which they seemed to lack big play ability on offense, and occasionally struggled getting to the passer on defense.
With this in mind, here are five Ravens who should break out in 2012.
After the retirement of Ricky Williams, the Ravens will need someone to step up into a backup role. Since they don't appear interested in acquiring a new player, they seem content with Anthony Allen stepping into that role.
That means Allen will get substantial carries after a year in which he only received three.
He has significantly fresher legs than Williams, and perhaps more speed and power as well. If his instincts have developed in his short time with the Ravens, he might turn into a great complement to Ray Rice.
Rice is a great player, but he cannot handle the load on his own. If Allen steps into the backup role, he should expect at least 100 carries, and with a big offensive line that should only get better after the draft, his powerful style should generate solid production.
There is definitely some risk here, since Allen played in the triple-option in college, but the upside is tremendous. Allen is definitely a name to watch out for in 2012.
Danny Gorrer quietly worked his way from special teams into the defensive rotation, and he made sure that he stayed there with his excellent play.
Though the Ravens are set at the top three cornerback positions, their dime back slot has yet to be filled. Gorrer will be competing with recent signing Corey Graham for playing time, but Gorrer's familiarity with the defense should give him an early edge.
The Ravens' pass defense was a surprise last year, generally providing excellent coverage throughout the year.
In a league in which defending the pass grows more important every year, the Ravens will be relying on at least four cornerbacks.
Gorrer should get significant playing time in passing situations, and he is talented enough to capitalize with big plays.
The departure of Cory Redding has left a void at defensive end, and the Ravens seem to be favoring Arthur Jones to fill that void.
While Jones will likely be in a platoon situation with Pernell McPhee, Jones is the name that most probably won't recognize.
He has been quiet in his time with the Ravens, but he is a workout warrior who has trained hard for his chance, and it has finally come.
While McPhee might eventually get the starting nod, Jones' run stuffing ability should give him the edge, and he should be come a solid starter in 2012.
Paul Kruger has already had a breakout season of sorts, as last year was his first year with any kind of production. Still, more is expected of Kruger, and he will get a chance to earn his keep, taking over the starting role of Jarrett Johnson.
Last year, Kruger was a situational pass rusher, but this year, he will be expected to play the run and the pass.
He certainly has the athletic ability and size to do so. Kruger is strong and very big for an outside linebacker, even in the 3-4. That should help him set the edge against the run.
Most importantly, Kruger needs to upgrade his pass rush. While he finally became somewhat of a force in 2011, he was still not consistent enough to provide a solid complement to Terrell Suggs.
With the extra attention that Suggs will command after his incredible year, Kruger will have opportunities to get to the quarterback. Expect him to take advantage of those opportunities on his way to a career year.
The first well known name on this list, some may even say that Flacco has already broken out.
After four years of average production, though, Flacco has shown he still has significant progress to make before he can be considered a great quarterback.
This is the year for Flacco to take over.
The Ravens have two very good receivers in Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, and they've made it clear that adding another is a priority. Lack of weapons will no longer be an excuse for Flacco.
Further, the addition of Jim Caldwell should help Flacco mature as a quarterback. Flacco has long been criticized for his lack of pocket presence, something Caldwell should be able to help.
Finally, Flacco appears poised to take control of this team. He has shown flashes of leadership in the past, but this year will be his chance to be a more vocal leader on a team that needs an offensive spark.
The Ravens will live and die by Flacco this year. Elite teams have elite quarterbacks, and Flacco will have to be elite this year for the Ravens to finally get over the hump and win the Super Bowl.
Though the Ravens might not win the Super Bowl, Flacco should take the next step towards becoming an elite quarterback in 2012.